It’s finally here — the point in which playing Call of Duty might actually become relevant to your military career. In the extra weird era of “Zoom soldiers,” virtual training (to no one’s surprise) isn’t as great as it likely sounded when some general in the Pentagon thought it up (sorry, sir). Get soldiers together over their computer screens and execute training as usual. What could go wrong? Well, a lot actually.
Congratulations, you have been selected to lead today’s attack on a Taliban stronghold. You are in charge of a 40-man infantry platoon and have at your disposal the most lethal and casualty-producing weapons available to the U.S. Army. Ready? Oh, one more thing: The Taliban stronghold is imaginary and your platoon is ten of your peers linked up over computers. Welcome to combat training in the Zoom era.
Everyone’s a super soldier
You are handed a map with your location and the location of the enemy and after planning, start your movement. Cue the unrealistic battlefield conditions and superhuman feats by you and the enemy. Do you have a 5-click movement to the objective? Too easy, you can “walk” that in two minutes over Zoom for “time constraints.” Need to call for air support? They arrive within 15 seconds tops and damn, your grid is on point.
Cadre are unsurprisingly biased
Recocking sucked before but reaches a whole new level of stupid in a virtual training lane. Unfortunately for you, the guy running the Zoom room is being a really d-bag today and all 20 rounds you fired on your pre-planned targets were misses. Instead of safety violations or hitting the wrong building, getting a pass depends on who’s feeling bored AF in their pajamas this morning.
There’s a mute button for that
The best thing ever just happened to safety briefs, newly promoted monologues from Sergeant Smith, and all the other pointless crap you had to listen attentively to before…a mute button. Is there anything more satisfying than muting your superior while playing COD on silent under the desk? I think not.
No one’s looking this put-together every morning anymore.
What grooming standards
We’re not saying it’s true, but grooming accountability may or may not be as easy as a few outfit changes after you finally get around to shaving. No fresh haircut? Sorry, my camera function isn’t working today for the call.
Dang, my internet broke
Have you ever had to face the wrath of showing up late, oversleeping or just plain forgetting? Virtually, there’s an excuse for that. Due to “unforeseen” circumstances, that 7 am phone call I missed was because of the Wi-Fi going down. Definitely not because I overslept, no way.
When did PT become a group fitness class?
“PT is the most important part of every soldier’s day” – Every CSM in history. Oh, you thought COVID19 would let you slack off a little on working out? Well you thought wrong. Your Platoon Sergeant has made it very clear you will still execute PT every day and you have to show proof of doing the exercises. Better be ready to both hold your phone for video and do push-ups at the same time. You haven’t experienced true horror until you hear the words “the bend and reach” over a Zoom call and realize it’s not a joke.
In the 1970s, the United States Navy was looking to upgrade their amphibious warfare capabilities. The Iwo Jima-class landing platform, helicopter (LPH) vessels had proven capable, but the Navy is always on the hunt for the next step in ability.
The Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship displaced only 11,000 tons, which makes it about the size of Commencement Bay-class escort carriers that were commissioned late in World War II. It could operate helicopters, OV-10 Broncos, and even AV-8 Harriers.
But the Navy wanted something bigger and better — the answer was a new class of amphibious assault ships.
A North American Rockwell OV-10A Bronco of U.S. Marine Corps observation squadron VMO-1 takes off from the flight deck of the U.S. amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA-4) in 1983.
(U.S. Navy photo by PHAN Dougherty)
The lead ship of a planned nine-ship class was named in honor of the Battle of Tarawa. It was much larger than Iwo Jima-class ships, displacing nearly 40,000 tons. In addition, it was over 200 feet longer, could go two knots faster (reaching a top speed of 24 knots), and had a wider flight deck. This enabled it to operate far more helicopters, Broncos, and Harriers than its predecessors. It also had a well deck, which enabled it to operate landing craft or amphibious assault vehicles.
USS Tarawa was commissioned in 1976 and four more of the class were in service by end of 1980. Although the high inflation rates of the 1970s put a premature stop to the program, the five constructed vessels proved to be a massive leap in capability for the Marines and Navy.
The amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) prepares to launch a CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Super Stallion from its flight deck during Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) integration training.
The Tarawa-class design was later used as the basis for Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, with some slight modifications, including a well deck for three LCACs, a more spacious flight deck, and less vulnerable command and control facilities.
The five Tarawa-class ships have since been retired. One is looking at a future in a museum, another was scrapped, a third was sunk as a target ship, and the remaining two are in reserves. Learn more about these ships in the video below.
It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.
Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.
The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.
As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.
At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.
“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.
With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.
Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.
By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.
Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”
Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.
The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.
“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”
For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.
Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.
His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.
Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.
(Cover Photo: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.)
Receiving the Medal of Honor confers a great deal of prestige on the recipient as well as an acknowledgement that the recipient and their unit members went through an especially dire and dangerous experience or gave a heavy sacrifice for the American people. The celebrity that goes with the medal allows recipients to cast light on issues that affect veterans and active duty troops.
But in addition to the intangible benefits like honor and stature, there are some tangible benefits that the military and the U.S. government give to medal recipients to acknowledge their sacrifice. Here are 6 special benefits that serve as an enduring “thank you” from the American people:
1. Preferred access to military academies for their dependents
Every American senator can nominate up to 10 candidates from their state for each of an allotted number of seats in the next freshman class at the Army, Navy and Air Force military academies. The number of slots changes from year to year, but the total number of names that state senators can put forward represents an annual “quota.”
But as a recognition of the sacrifice that MoH recipients have made for their country, recipients’ children can bypass this part of the selection process and put their name in for consideration regardless of whether there are open slots in that state’s academy quota.
2. A monthly stipend
Every Medal of Honor recipient is entitled to a monthly stipend on top of all other pay or retirement benefits. This stipend was originally $10 a month in 1916 but has climbed to $1,299 per month.
The recipient’s base retirement pay is also raised by 10 percent.
3. Free, priority Space-A travel
Medal recipients are granted lifelong access to the military’s “Space A” travel, which allows active duty military members, some veterans and their dependents to hitch rides in empty seats on military planes. MoH recipients get preferred access, meaning they can jump the line.
4. Special parking spots at on-base amenities
Service members with an MoH also get lifelong access to other military benefits like the commissary, on-post gyms and pools and recreational facilities. Many of these facilities have reserved spaces for MoH recipients.
5. Special status in the exchange of salutes
While military members aren’t required to salute Medal of Honor recipients, they are encouraged to do so as long as the recipient is physically wearing the medal, even when the recipient is in civilian clothes.
Also, while military salutes in other situations are always up the the rank structure — meaning the junior soldier salutes the senior one — anyone may render a salute to a MoH recipient first. There have even been cases of American presidents saluting MoH recipients.
6. Headstones with gold lettering and full burial honors
Medal of Honor recipients are guaranteed a burial with full military honors — an honor otherwise only guaranteed to retirees and active duty service members. This includes a nine-member team of six pallbearers, a chaplain, an officer-in-charge or noncommissioned-officer-in-charge and a bugler.
At the gravesite, the MoH recipient is also entitled to a special headstone with gold lettering.
Author’s Note: An earlier version of this story referred to Medal of Honor Recipient and Lt. Col. Charles Kettles as an Army major. He was a major at the time of the actions for which he received the award, but he retired and received the award as a lieutenant colonel. The author regrets this error.
The Battle of the Philippine Sea was the kick that broke down the door to the Philippines and the Japanese home islands during World War II. The American 5th Fleet squared off against the Imperial Japanese Navy’s 1st Mobile Fleet in a fight that would help decide the success of the ongoing Marine invasion of the Marianas Islands and determine which side controlled the air surrounding Japan.
This footage from the Smithsonian Channel shows what sailors and pilots actually experienced during the largest ever carrier-to-carrier battle.
It was to be a gamble for the Japanese no matter what, but it’s impossible that Jisaburo knew just how badly the next two days would go for him and the rest of the Japanese forces. The Japanese chose this engagement as the “decisive battle,” and pitted all serviceable ships and planes in range into the fight in order to break the back of the American amphibious forces.
But problems for Japan began before the battle. On June 15, an American sub spotted the Japanese fleet headed toward the islands, allowing the U.S. commanders to favorably redistribute their forces for the massive surface and aerial fight to come.
A plane lands on the USS Lexington during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
The American fleet had a thick screen of anti-aircraft guns on battleships and heavy cruisers positioned ahead of the escort and fleet carriers. They had almost twice as many carriers and about 20 percent more planes. U.S. pilots and crews were well-trained veterans flying against predominantly green, under-trained pilots that were rushed into place after previous losses, like the Battle of Midway.
These fuses used radar to determine their distance from a plane and then detonated at an optimal range, drastically increasing the chance that shrapnel would kill the pilot or destroy the targeted plane.
The Imperial Japanese Navy’s 1st Fleet tries to maneuver out of harm’s way June 20, 1944, during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
And then the U.S. planes took to the air. The Americans, with better crews and radar, facing Japanese wings broken up by anti-aircraft fire, were able to absolutely slaughter the enemy. It would later be described as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.” The Japanese units suffered so much damage that some lost their way back to ship and were attacked while trying to reach the friendly airfield on Guam.
But of course, a group of naval aviators in a carrier battle don’t want to just take down the enemy planes — they also want a piece of the carriers. Sinking just one of those can set the enemy industry back a few years’ worth of mining, smelting, and ship construction.
American planes failed to find the Japanese fleet on the first day of battle, but U.S. submarines spotted two fleet carriers, the Taiho and Shokaku, and sank them with torpedoes.
A Japanese carrier attempts to outmaneuver American bombs and other ordnance during the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
Overnight, the two fleets maneuvered around one another and put planes up once again the following morning. Again, the forces clashed and America came away the clear winner. The American planes hunted for the fleet and, this time, spotted it late in the afternoon.
Despite the setting sun, America decided to press it’s luck and a torpedo plane managed to sink a third Japanese fleet carrier, the Hiyo.
All told, America destroyed well over 500 aircraft, sank five ships (including three carriers), and protected the invasion forces at Saipan. The engagement cost the U.S. over 100 sailors and aircraft as well as a battleship, but so weakened the Japanese navy that it was seen as a sort of second Midway, permanently tipping the balance of power even further in America’s direction.
An American admiral launched an almost perfect carrier attack on Pearl Harbor during an exercise in 1932, but the military failed to learn its lesson, allowing the Japanese to launch almost exactly the same attack 9 years later.
Rear Adm. Harry E. Yarnell was an early proponent of aircraft carriers, but his displays of air power were discounted by the most of the admiralty.
The aircraft was invented in 1903 and, almost immediately, the military started to look at how to use the technology in combat. But different military branches from different nations moved at different speeds, and many navies considered planes an observation platform and nothing more.
In World War I, pilots bombed enemy targets by throwing munitions from their planes, but aerial bombing was still considered a stunt by many, and the U.S. Navy brass was convinced that airplanes weren’t a threat to their capital ships.
Eleven years later, Yarnell was given command of the attacking force in an annual exercise to test the U.S. defenses at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The defenders were certain that he, like all of his predecessors, would launch his attack using his battleships and cruisers.
On the morning of Sunday, Feb. 7, 1932, the attacking fleet was in position and Battleship Row was essentially asleep, just like Dec. 7, 1941. And, except for Japan’s use of modified torpedoes and the size of the respective fleets, the attacks were nearly mirrors of one another.
Good ole, racism, stopping military preparedness. The Japanese, meanwhile, had naval officers at their consulate on Oahu who witnessed the exercise and read the press coverage that followed, allowing them to report on it to their superiors almost 10 years before Japan launched its own attack.
The bulk of the U.S. military refused to accept the result, just like many of them refused to accept the result of Mitchell’s bombing of the German battleship. In 1941, average sailors and soldiers paid the price for their hubris.
Imagine going into the Emergency Room, bleeding from a car accident. The EMTs tell you it doesn’t have to be a serious injury as long as they can handle the blood loss. Imagine then being told they can’t actually handle the blood loss – even at the hospital.
That’s the reality the American Red Cross is facing today. It has only two days worth of Type-O blood left for the entire United States. Just six units for every 100,000 people.
An estimated seven percent of Americans have Type-O negative blood, but it can be transfused to any patient. So when the emergency department needs blood in a hurry and doesn’t have time to type a patient’s blood, a process that can take up to a half hour, they reach for the universal donor’s blood. But Type-O positive is also a critical blood type, being the most widely transfused type.
The Red Cross has tried a number of different gimmicks to try and get more people to donate, especially those with O-negative blood. The Red Cross in Arizona even offered a giveaway package to send a lucky donor to Los Angeles for the season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.
And that was back in February 2019. Nearly four months later, the show has ended, and the blood supply situation is critical and will only get worse. As the year turns to Spring and Summer, blood drives and school collections wind down, further shortening the supply.
With such a severe shortage, conditions that would normally be survivable could soon become more and more lethal. Transfusions are needed for much more than trauma from car accidents and the like. Blood is necessary for things we may even consider routine in our day and age, from cancer treatments to childbirth.
From action-packed eyewitness accounts such as Guadalcanal Diaryto devastating Holocaust memoirs like The Diary of Anne Frankand Nightto the thrilling espionage tale of Operation Mincemeat, World War II is the subject of some of the most fascinating and influential nonfiction books ever written. Every year, seemingly dozens of new titles emerge to offer fresh perspectives and uncover fascinating details about the deadliest conflict in human history. These nine classics cover the war from the Eastern Front to the South Pacific and investigate its murky origins and complex legacies. Make your next great read one of these essential World War II books.
By John Hersey
Originally published in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker, this compassionate and richly observed portrait of six survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima caused an immediate sensation. It was the first–and only–time the magazine had devoted an entire issue to a single article. Newsstands sold out within hours, and radio stations interrupted their regular programming to broadcast readings of the complete text.
More than a year after the Japanese city was destroyed, Americans were getting the first full account of the horrors of nuclear warfare. Hersey described stone facades permanently etched with the silhouettes of vaporized people and soldiers whose eyes were melted by the atomic flash. Widely recognized as one of the earliest examples of New Journalism (the style of reporting made most famous by Joan Didion), Hiroshima profoundly impacted the debate over nuclear weapons and played a key role in the healing process between America and Japan.
2. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
By E.B. Sledge
With brutal honesty and lucid prose, Eugene Bondurant Sledge provides a grunt’s-eye view of infantry combat in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Nicknamed “Sledgehammer” by his comrades, Sledge fought with the 1st Marine Division in the grueling battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Using notes he secretly kept in a pocket-sized New Testament, Sledge describes the terror of life on the front lines and documents acts of savagery committed by both sides. But he also admires the courage of his fellow soldiers and pauses, when he can, to observe his natural surroundings–an interest that would lead to a later career as a biology professor. With the Old Breed was one of the main sources for Ken Burns’s documentary The Warand helped to form the basis for the HBO mini-series The Pacific.
3. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
By William Shirer
First published in 1960, this National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller traces the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from Adolf Hitler’s birth in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945. As a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and one of “Murrow’s Boys” at the CBS Radio Network, Shirer reported from Berlin and Vienna in the years before the war and followed the German Army during the invasion of France.
After the war, he drew on his own experiences and a wealth of newly available documents, including the diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and General Franz Halder and testimony from the Nuremberg trials, to write this 1,250-page volume. The book was a huge commercial success, selling one million hardcover copies and going through twenty printings in its first year. Although its scholarly reputation is often debated, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains one of the most influential tomes about World War II to this day.
By Art Spiegelman
This Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel recasts the Holocaust with Nazis as cats, Jews as mice, and Poles as pigs. Originally serialized in the alternative comics magazine Raw, the story moves back and forth between present-day Rego Park, New York and Nazi-occupied Poland. In New York, cartoonist Art Spiegelman tries to mend his fractured relationship with his father, Vladek, by drawing a book-length comic based on Vladek’s wartime experiences. In Poland, Vladek and his wife, Anja, endure forced relocation to the Sosnowiec Ghetto; the death of their first son, Richieu; and imprisonment in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust,” Maus elevated the critical reputation of comics and inspired countless artists, including Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, and Marjane Satrapi.
5. The Longest Day
By Cornelius Ryan
Based on interviews with more than 1,100 D-Day survivors, The Longest Day is the definitive account of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Ryan experienced the battle firsthand as a 24-year-old reporter for the Daily Telegraph. When the bomber he was flying in was hit and had to return to England, he jumped into a patrol boat and returned to cover the fighting on the French beaches. Fifteen years later, Ryan set out to tell “what actually happened, rather than what generals or others thought happened.” The result is a masterpiece of military history packed with novelistic details, from the U.S. paratrooper who won $2,500 at cards on the eve of the battle but deliberately lost it all so as not to run out of luck to Field Marshal Rommel’s reason for being 600 miles away when the invasion began–he was bringing his wife her birthday present.
6. In the Garden of Beasts
By Erik Larson
This #1 New York Times bestseller is the riveting story of William E. Dodd, the American ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937. Dodd, a history professor, was not Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first choice for the job, and he arrived in Berlin with little appetite for the endless socializing expected of a diplomat and little sense of the dangers posed by Germany’s newly-appointed chancellor, Adolf Hitler.
While Dodd struggled to find his place, his 24-year-old daughter, Martha, took to her glamorous new life with verve. Beautiful and sexually adventurous, her high-profile paramours included Rudolph Diels, the chief of the Gestapo, and Boris Winogradov, an attache to the Soviet Embassy who recruited her as a spy. Part political thriller, part family drama, In the Garden of Beasts brings fresh perspective to the question of why it took the world so long to recognize the threat of the Third Reich.
7. An Army at Dawn
By Rick Atkinson
While most American history buffs are well versed in the Allied push across Europe after the Normandy landings and the key battles for control of the Pacific, the North African campaign is a less familiar subject. Drawing on personal diaries and letters from soldiers as well as official documents kept in British, American, French, Italian, and German war archives, Rick Atkinson corrects the record in this Pulitzer Prize-winning history, the first volume in The Liberation Trilogy. From the amphibious invasion of Morocco and Algeria in November 1942 to the Allies’ watershed victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein and the US Army’s coming-of-age at the Battle of Hill 609 in Tunisia, An Army at Dawn seamlessly integrates big-picture military strategy with boots-on-the-ground perspective. Atkinson is particularly insightful on the clash of egos between the old-school British commanders and their upstart American counterparts.
8. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943
By Anthony Beevor
With more than one million casualties, the five-month siege of Stalingrad was the bloodiest battle of World War II and a decisive turning point in the fight for Europe. Antony Beevor, a former British Army officer, brilliantly balances the huge scale of the conflict with a soldier’s-eye view of some of the most horrific conditions in the history of modern warfare.
He begins with Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union that was plagued by bad weather, long supply lines, and difficult terrain, and analyzes how the Luftwaffe’s carpet bombing of Stalingrad helped to create the treacherous, rubble-strewn conditions that allowed Soviet snipers to wage a gruesome war of attrition. Most captivatingly, Atkinson portrays Stalingrad as the terrifying outcome of totalitarianism: Hitler lived in a fantasy world and refused to listen to German officers who tried to save the Sixth Army from complete destruction, while Stalin’s demands for total obeisance resulted in the executions of 13,500 Red Army soldiers.
9. Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization
By Nicholson Baker
In this highly unusual and captivating work, novelist Nicholson Baker tells the story of the buildup to World War II in vignettes. Each short piece contains a fact or a quotation drawn from primary sources including newspaper articles, radio speeches, personal diaries, and government transcripts.
Through the steady accumulation of detail, Baker suggests that Allied leaders were not as reluctant to enter the global conflict as most historians contend. He goes back to as far as 1920 to quote Winston Churchill on the proposed bombing of civilian targets in Iraq (“I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes”), then skips ahead to the prime minister’s preferred military strategy in 1941: “One of our great aims is the delivery on German towns of the largest possible quantity of bombs per night.” Turning to the American scene, Baker draws from sources suggesting that Franklin D. Roosevelt may have deliberately goaded the Japanese into bombing Pearl Harbor so the US could enter the war.
Some scholars were harsh in their judgment of Human Smoke, but by returning to the primary material, Baker rescues pacifism as an honorable concept and reminds readers that when military leaders rush to apply new technologies to warfare, it is often civilians who suffer the most.
Deployments are hard on everyone. But no one feels the sting of a deployment like the troops. The more senior troops who spout the phrase “not my first rodeo” like they came up with it really are used to the lifestyle change of deployments. They’ll kiss their family goodbye and tell them that they’ll see them in a few months. No special rituals required.
Younger troops who’ve never deployed often have no frame of reference for what’s about to happen. They’ve been preparing their entire career for this moment but they are lost. Since their leadership is often more focused on getting the missed holidays out of the way early — the Joes will fall into these same traps.
If your way of disseminating important information is through something that you KNOW puts people to sleep, don’t expect anyone to listen.
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams)
Forget about all of the actual pre-deployment checklists the CO put out
The commander thinks they’ve set up a nice plan for all of their troops to successfully get ready for a deployment. They probably even tasked a high-speed platoon leader with detailing it all out in a nice PowerPoint presentation to show all of the eager troops two weeks out.
Too bad no one is going to follow those plans. Troops won’t even follow the stupid simple recommendations like “unplug your car battery” or even “leave your car somewhere secure.” That’s just the light stuff. You can be certain that there’s a handful of people who never got their will finalized or a special power of attorney written.
NCOs might join in. But their excuse is to “watch out for them doing dumb stuff.” At least that’s what they tell their spouse.
(Photo by Sgt. James Avery)
The last few days of being stateside is usually filled with plenty of alcohol. From day drinking to barracks parties to bar hopping, younger troops will always have a glass or can in their hand.
To be fair, there isn’t much change in a younger troop’s drinking habits from a regular pay day to the day they find out that they’re deploying. They now just have an excuse to indulge (and a sympathy-earning reason for smelling like a brewery the following morning).
Troops never change.
The ritual of partying until you pass out
To put this as politely as possible for our more family-friendly audience, younger troops are trying have a good time with the person that they’re interested in. They often have a secondary goal while out barhopping: to find that last bit of companionship before going on a twelve month drought.
Whether they’re in the search of the “right one” or “the one right now” depends on the troop. But you can be sure that they’ll use the “I’m an American GI about to deploy” as a pickup line. This often leads directly into the next box on their checklist.
But then again, I’m a romantic who likes to believe love isn’t dead in this world.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac O. Guest IV)
Marry without hesitation
It’s just a part of military culture that troops often jump headfirst into a marriage that they aren’t prepared to be in. The promise to get out of the barracks isn’t much of a concern but if they’ve already found the one that they’re in love with (or occasionally “in love” with), they’ll tie the knot right away.
There is a financial benefit that troops keep in mind. The joke about troops and their soon-to-be spouse just after the BAH and Tricare has some grounding in reality. So why not nosedive into a presumably life long commitment for an extra bit of cash every month? Yikes. Save this very real ritual for when you’re ready.
Unless it’s something small or quick, don’t expect it to heal up before deploying either.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Katelyn Sprott)
Getting a new tat (or five) is one of the more harmless rituals
Tattoos and troops also go hand in hand. Since they won’t be getting any new ink (or at least access to a clean and healthy environment) for a while, they’ll try to get that last idea that they had in mind done before stepping foot on that plane.
Plenty of troops also forget the logistics behind huge tattoos. Back pieces or intricate artwork like sleeves take a lot of time to ink and even more time to heal up before the artist could finish their work. So it’s not uncommon for troops to deploy with just the line work done and have to wait until they’re back to finish coloring it in.
Cool points downrange aren’t given for looks — they’re given for actions.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Malissa Lott)
Buy all sorts of tacticool crap they probably won’t use- a pretty useless ritual
There’s kind of a misconception spread by video games that troops can just attach whatever they want onto their weapon or that they can use whatever tacticool stuff they want for their deployment. The actual truth is that if it wasn’t issued out (or sold at the Exchange), it can’t be used.
It’s their money so they can spend it how they like. But no platoon sergeant will ever let their private go outside the wire wearing some gear that looks operator AF but is really just cheap and painted black. Same goes for any kind of modification to their assigned weapon.
Oh the joys of life without responsibilities.
(Photo by Tech Sgt. Josef Cole)
Blow all of their money
This is possibly the dumbest ritual on the list. There are benefits to deploying while being young, single, and debt-free. Troops can blow every single cent in their bank account and not have to worry about making ends meet for the next few months.
There are at least three meals a day and a bunk to sleep on until they get back and blow all that money they saved.
We love our military officers. Let’s put that out there right now before the light, verbal hazing commences.
Once an officer is fresh out of training, we call them a ‘boot,’ which is military for being a brand new guy or gal in the service. Depending on what branch or unit you’re in, the timeline for being a boot can last a year — or until you complete a combat deployment.
In any case, the training officer candidates undergo can be quite difficult, but it can be even harder to earn the respect of the men and women who will serve under them. Earning a college degree and getting commissioned is easy compared to earning the respect of your entire unit through service.
Earning respect starts with choosing your words and how you carry yourself carefully. Here are a few words boot officers should not say for a long, long time — if ever.
Dating a service member is different than dating a civilian. But just how much different is it? Here are eight things to consider before jumping into a relationship with someone in uniform.
1. Service members are independent and you should be too.
Troops have to deploy, which means not having him or her around for important events like anniversaries, birthdays and weddings. If you’re a person that constantly needs their physical presence, dating a service member is probably the wrong choice.
2. Don’t be jealous.
Most of the U.S. military is integrated. They deploy to remote locations and work long hours with members of the opposite sex. You’ll have a hard time trusting your significant other if you’re naturally jealous.
3. Don’t overly display supportive military gear like you’re rooting for your favorite sports team.
It’s okay to be proud of your boyfriend or girlfriend serving in the military, but you can take it a bit too far. Gear includes t-shirts, bumper stickers, jewelry and more. You may think it’s cute and supportive, but you’ve just painted a target on the back of your significant other as the butt of many jokes.
4. It’s not being mean, it’s tough love.
Service members are used to direct communication, so avoid that passive aggressive, vague, manipulative language that your mother-in-law likes to use. Direct communication is instilled from day one in the military. I can still remember my drill instructor yelling, “say what you mean, and mean what you say!”
5. There will be secrets.
Depending on their specialty, service members are trained to be more guarded than others. This is especially true with members that require a clearance to do their job. You can poke and prod all you want, but it’s not going to happen. You’ll have to be okay with not knowing that part of their life.
6. You have to be willing to move.
If you’re looking for a life partner in the military, you’ve got to be willing to give up ties to a specific location. This could mean giving up your career and being away from family. Some service members move every three years. Are you willing to live like a nomad?
7. You have to be flexible.
Plans might change or be canceled at the last minute. One moment they’re free to go on a date night, the next day they’re pulling an all-nighter. Same goes for weekends. Just because they spend one weekend with you doesn’t mean that next weekend will be the same.
8. Learn to tolerate his buddies.
The military is a brotherhood. Their lives depend on this special bond, so don’t think that they can just go out and get new friends. Learn to get along with friends, even the annoying immature one.
The Pentagon can resist all it wants, but beards have made a comeback.
The Official Journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society even conducted a study to explore how individuals with (or without) facial hair are perceived by others. Women rated men with facial hair as more attractive and appearing healthier than those who were clean-shaven — and now male service members want change.
Today’s military men, however, are just going to have to rely on the uniform to gain an edge over civilians — since the advent of the gas mask, facial hair has been strictly regulated by the military. There are certain exceptions, however, such as a new regulation that will allow service members to wear a beard for religious reasons or operations where a beard could help service members blend in better with the local population.
But until the U.S. military embraces the beard, it’ll remain a rare sight on our warriors.
All the more reason to admire the best military beards in history.
Harry served from 2005-2015, even secretly deploying on combat missions in Afghanistan before his location was publicized and he was pulled out for security reasons. He’s the epitome of cool, he fully recognizes the meaning and importance of service, and he’s proof that a military beard can still look professional.
Ulysses S. Grant
The man led the Union to victory and served two terms as president. That is the beard of victory right there.
Maj. Gen. George Crook
Crook cut his teeth fighting Native American tribes in Oregon before the Civil War. When he was called on to serve the Union, he used the same tactics in the face of the rebel enemy. His beard is exactly the kind you’d expect from a man the Apaches called “Grey Wolf.”
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Humans feel the need for speed — without a doubt. From the first time we sit behind the wheel to choosing which roller coasters we prioritize at Magic Mountain, speed is always a primary factor.
But where most of us have to stop our fiending for a speed rush when the “Escape from Krypton” ride ends, others get to go out and design objects and vehicles that go far faster than we can imagine.
Remember as you read this list, an M4 carbine fires a round at 2,025 miles per hour.
8. NASA X-43 – 7,000 mph
The X-43 A is the fastest aircraft ever made. Unmanned, it was designed to test air-breathing engine technology at speeds above Mach 5, though the aircraft could reach speeds up to Mach 10. NASA wanted to use the information collected from its 3 X-43s to design airframes with larger payloads and, eventually, reusable rockets.
7. Space Shuttles, 17,500 mph
In order for anything in low-earth orbit to stay in low-earth orbit, it has to be traveling at least 17,500 mph. The shuttles’ external tank carries more than 500,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, which are mixed and burned as fuel for the three main engines.
6. Apollo 10 Capsule – 24,791 mph
The Apollo 10 mission of May 1969 saw the fastest manned craft ever. Apollo 10 was the moon landing’s dry run, simulating all the events required for a lunar landing. The men on board were all Air Force, Marines, and Navy astronauts.
From here on out, the vehicles are unmanned.
5. Stardust – 28,856 mph
Anything designed to collect samples of a comet has to be designed for speed. Stardust was designed to catch up to a comet, collect a sample, and then return to that sample to Earth — which it did in 2006. The capsule achieved the fastest speed of any man-made object returning to Earth’s atmosphere — Mach 36.
4. Voyager 1 – 38,610 mph
Voyager also has the distinction of being the most traveled man-made object ever. Launched in 1977, it reached interstellar-goddamn-space in 2013. It covered more than 322 million miles a year.
2. An iron manhole cover – 125,000 mph
During a nuclear bomb test called Operation Plumbbob, Robert Brownlee was tasked with designing a test for limiting nuclear fallout from an underground explosion. A device was placed in a deep pit, capped with a four-inch, iron manhole.
Obviously, the cap popped right off during the explosion, but Brownlee wanted to test the velocity of the expulsed cap. The test was filmed using a camera that captured one image per millisecond and only one frame captured the iron cap.
Brownlee calculated its velocity at 125,000 mph — and that it likely reached space, but no one knows for sure. They never found it.
1. Helios Satellites – 157,078 mph
The first of two satellites designed to study the sun. Also designed in the 1970s, the two Helios satellites broke all spacecraft speed records and flew closer to the sun than even the planet Mercury. It only took the probes two years to get to the sun and they transmitted information about the heliosphere until 1985.